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Experiences of a senior researcher _____________________________________________________ How to get a Ph.D., TKK, May 17, 2006 Erkki Oja Professor Laboratory.

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Presentation on theme: "Experiences of a senior researcher _____________________________________________________ How to get a Ph.D., TKK, May 17, 2006 Erkki Oja Professor Laboratory."— Presentation transcript:

1 Experiences of a senior researcher _____________________________________________________ How to get a Ph.D., TKK, May 17, 2006 Erkki Oja Professor Laboratory of Computer and Information Science Department of Computer Science and Engineering Helsinki University of Technology

2 - My talk is based on personal experience rather than textbooks (many very good texts have been given in earlier talks) - What experience: - Dr. Tech. in 1977, HUT - Research work in 6 universities, 4 countries in 3 continents - Advisor for 24 doctors - Official supervisor, opponent, pre-examiner for many

3 So, instead of him...Listen to him.

4 CONTENTS: __________________________________ 1.WHAT IT TAKES (How do you succeed or fail ?) 2. WHAT IT IS (What is scientific research ?) 3. WHERE IT COMES FROM (What is creativity ?)

5 1. WHAT IT TAKES How do you succeed or fail?

6 - It is necessary if you are planning a career as researcher; guarantee of the professional status (”driver’s license”); main focus of this talk - It helps you get profound (and proven) expertise in a (narrow) field even if you are not a researcher - Of my ”own” 24 doctors, -6 are now professors, -3 are in companies, -15 are senior researchers in universities or institutes. Why get a Ph.D (or D.Sc., TkT) at all ?

7 - It is very hard to make an exceptionally good Thesis, but not very hard to make an average Thesis - With enough motivation and willpower, most people who have managed to get an M.Sc. can also make a Ph.D. - Especially nowadays it is getting easier and easier due to the graduate schools offering secure financing for many years and good supervision (and, e.g., courses like this one). Is it very hard to get a Ph.D ?

8 - Motivation and will. You must want to become a doctor. Role models help a lot. - Material resources: time and money. Good research groups have money or can get it for you - A thesis advisor who wants to take you as apprentice. - A suitable problem: not too easy, not too hard. - Certain personal skills and talents, especially: -Ability to write fluent text in English -Ability to make schedules and stick to them -Ability to get at least one really good idea in your topic. What are the main requirements ?

9 - Motivation declines. There are more important things in life (industry job, raising a family, becoming a sheep farmer,...) - You take a part-time job in industry while ”finishing” the Thesis - Your self-criticism grows faster than your accomplishments - It is so pleasant to be a grad student (or scary to be a Ph.D.) that you do not want to change your life - Money runs out in your lab. You have to go - Your thesis advisor leaves, you do not want to follow, and there is nobody to substitute for him/her - Your problem turned out to be unsuitable. How can you fail to get a Ph.D. ?

10 2. WHAT IT IS What is scientific research?

11 - A good discussion has been given by Academician Teuvo Kohonen (my own supervisor in the 70’s) - New scientific knowledge has three essential properties: 1. Originality 2. Correctness 3. Impact - Without all three of these, what you have found is not new scientific knowledge. The three properties of new scientific knowledge

12 1. Originality - Knowledge should be new - Not just something that your supervisor did not know, but something that nobody in the world knew - With many conferences, easily accessible papers, and Web search engines (see other lectures of this course), it is easier to check the originality today than it used to be - Once you submit your paper, competent reviewers should be able to check this.

13 2. Correctness - Knowledge should be correct and true - This is of course very hard! We can never prove that anything is ”absolutely true”, but only relative to the present state-of-the-art as defined by the international scientific community - Competent paper reviewers should be able to check this but you cannot rely on them; the responsibility is with the authors (consider some recent frauds).

14 3. Impact - Knowledge should be influential - This is even harder because the impact only comes in the future; so it has to be predicted - This is where the help from senior researchers (supervisor) is absolutely necessary - Over time, a good measure of impact is number of citations but they come too late for a Ph.D. Thesis - Competent paper reviewers have a subjective opinion on the impact but it may be totally different from yours.

15 … so remember: The Empire Strikes Back ! There has never been a revolution without opposition.

16 To maximize the impact, you must work hard to impress people with your results and papers in conferences etc., and your Thesis advisor (supervisor) must help.

17 - Young researchers may have a too idealistic notion of how to make the impact - Research, too, is a human activity -”The history of science should be X-rated” - But fortunately, the race for impact usually starts only after the Ph.D.

18 Assuming correctness, we could rank scientific results according to the originality and impact as follows: 1.Reporting obvious facts (zero research) 2.Reproducing results given by others 3.Systematic coverage of a problem fieldOK 4.New theoretical or experimental observationsOK 5.Creation of new concepts or systems 6.Starting a new research field

19 - Sometimes, research is divided in two parts: 1. Curiosity (basic) research: understanding the world 2. Useful (applied) research: mid-term economical use - In most engineering research, both aspects are found but the second one is predominant - Note that both are scientific research as opposed to other kinds of research, not producing new scientific knowledge. Basic research vs. applied research

20 3. WHERE IT COMES FROM What is creativity?

21 Where does the new scientific knowledge come from ? - From a human brain – hopefully, yours -You have to learn the research field thoroughly by reading lots of books and papers – but not too many - You have to discuss the problems within the research group, in seminars and conferences – with good people only - You can learn from the senior researchers what is good, what is not good – if they are good scientists - And then you just have to think hard !

22 What is creativity and is it absolutely necessary ? - Remember that in the Ph.D. you are only practicing and developing scientific creativity, you are not yet a professional researcher - Creativity can be learned - It is not the same thing as doing well at school - Needs continuous thinking of your problem (conscious and subconcious).

23 Thomas Alva Edison: ”5 per cent inspiration, 95 per cent perspiration” Louis Pasteur: ”Luck favours a prepared mind”


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